BROOKFIELD >> “This snow, this snow, OH, how I wish it would go,” said mom.
“But why?” said Tim. “When I can swim – in a fluffy cloud. Mom, you would be proud!”
The story begins on an ordinary snow day where a mother and her son go outside to. Soon their imaginations take them all over the world as this duo ends up building in the snow The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Historical fact meets kid’s literature in Janine Graffeo’s book “Tim and the Seven Sno-Wonders of the Ancient World.” Graffeo’s book, illustrated by Connor DeHaan, was released in November 2016 via the self-publishing platform Blurb.com.
Thanking both children and “little big kids” for reading her work, Graffeo admitted, “I don’t have a creative process. I find myself in some situation where a great line of copy happens when you least expect it.”
Graffeo described the genesis of the book: “It was a cold morning in January 2015. I was just idly looking out the window at the snow coming down hard. And then it all seemed so magical, this wondrous snow.”
Graffeo thought about the possible reaction to a snow day by her four nephews (who range in age from three to 11), and particularly, the possible reaction of her 11-year-old nephew Christian. “A traditional snowman is not their style,” she added. “They build elaborate snow forts with style. I wanted to convey in the book this abstract and different quality.”
The snow glistened while mom said, “Shhh, listen. We can go anywhere in this snowy blanket of white.” So she took handfuls of snow and packed it into large balls that soon were used to make gigantic walls.
At the 1,000-foot ranch house that she is in the process of renovating, Graffeo said she built upon this book’s idea of an unusual snow day and did more research. “I wanted to break from the norm and explore history,” she elaborated. “The research gave me information to condense. The key was to education children and to entertain them.”
Graffeo drew upon her considerable writing experience to create the story. Graffeo previously worked as an editor and writer for Housatonic Publications, which formerly published the Housatonic Times, a New Milford newspaper. Today, Graffeo works as an editor for the marketing agency Tracy Locke, which handles such diverse brands as Heineken lager beer and the Hewlett-Packard technology company.
“I wanted to try something a little different,” Graffeo explained on her career change. “There are so many different angles to explore from a copy editing perspective.”
Her writing and editing skills made the writing of the children’s book go quickly. Although the work is a children’s book, Graffeo pointed out, “I am not trying to target any age group. I wanted to keep it ageless. There is content to keep parents interested and entertained. It’s a fun read. Parent and child can bond together over the story’s journey.” She ventured, “The lexicon is vast but I didn’t want to underestimate the cognitive abilities of children. Studies show that the ideal age for children to start learning other languages is three.”
Graffeo said she was influenced by the rhyming schemes found in the writings of classic children’s author Dr. Seuss, who wrote “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “The Cat in the Hat.” “There is such clever precision but with a huge emphasis on education in his works,” she said.
“This is the Colossus of Rhodes.”
“There was a great battle over the city, and the fight for reign was not pretty. Demetrius constructed two large siege towers, but they both were too weak and offered no power. So the Rhodians declared ‘It’s clear to see how we came to victory.’ There were tons of metals leftover from the rebel, so they used 9 tons of iron and 15 tons of bronze to erect their god – Helios. It stood 110 feet high, looking like it touched the sky. But 226 B.C. a massive quake destroyed this make.”
After her writing was finished, following an intensive two months, Graffeo next needed an illustrator. On the online professional networking site LinkedIn, she found a kindred spirit for the book in illustrator Connor DeHaan of Oswego, New York.
“I sent him the script, and we had a great dialogue,” she said. “His preliminary sketches were so whimsical. It was a great marriage of talents.”
Graffeo said the process of working with DeHaan on what would yield the 24-page, 8” x 10” soft cover book was speedy: “The whole book was done in under six months total.”
Graffeo said she selected Blurb.com as the online platform in which to publish her book. “When you get involved in self-publishing, it is outside the norm,” she said. “You do your own P.R. to get the word out on your book. Mainstream publishing is so narrow in its targeting.”
She said she eventually hopes to attract the attention of a smaller publisher: “Many authors are getting noticed this way.” She cited a local author whose farming book was discovered by a large publisher after it was promoted at a local livestock fair.
Graffeo said she imagines a larger future for her work. She envisions “Tim and the Seven Sno-Wonders of the Ancient World” to be the beginning of a three-part series. She sees two subsequent books focusing on The Seven Natural Wonders of the World and The Seven Modern Wonders of the World, each work set in different seasons of the year. Giving a preview of her next work, she revealed: “I see a Spring setting with talking animals, and with more character development.”
Recently Graffeo attended a book signing at a local holiday fair held by the Woman’s Club of Greater New Milford, accompanied by her nephew Christian, so fans could meet the source of the book’s inspiration. She added, “He is quite a good writer himself. He has shown me some of his writing.”
She said Christian will come with her to when she participates at a literacy event (the National Read Across America Day) at Bethel’s Y.M.C.A. Children’s Center. Graffeo will serve as the event’s “Celebrity Reader.” “I will be reading to pre-schoolers,” she said. “It’s a nice event to promote reading.”
She will also discuss the book in depth on a podcast “Coffee with Craig” hosted by realtor Craig Oshrin at the end of winter
Graffeo is quick to offer twofold advice to potential children’s book authors: “One: don’t be timid if you have a great idea. Go for it! The battle is that you feel like you may be a failure, and procrastination in the form of Ben & Jerry’s or the golf range beckons. Get the idea out of the mental realm.” She added, “The second part is to reach out to a platform and to allow it to build to a final product.”
Graffeo compared the creation of a children’s book to the renovation of her home: “You take it room by room. It’s exercise for your brain, just like a workout. You have to keep your wheels spinning. The muse will come.”
“Tim and the Seven Sno-Wonders of the Ancient World” is available for Kindle and in soft cover format on Blurb.com